The Guru Nanak Sikh Society applied for a building permit to construct a temple that would seat 75 people on a 1.9-acre parcel on the outskirts of town. But the neighbors protested because there would be considerable traffic on the residential streets. The permit was denied.

To meet these objections, the members purchased a 28-acre parcel in an agricultural zone further away from the city. They applied for a building permit. The county planning commission granted the permit, subject to 20 special conditions such as traffic mitigation.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

But a few neighbors appealed to the county board of supervisors, arguing this would be an undesirable “leapfrog development” away from the town. After a public hearing, the county reversed the planning commission and denied the permit by a 4-0 vote.

Guru Nanak Sikh Society then sued the county for denying a building permit, claiming religious discrimination. The members alleged violation of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the U.S. Constitution. They alleged their 75-seat temple would be away from a residential or business area, and they would comply with the 20 special conditions imposed by the county planning commission.

If you were the judge would you order the county to issue the building permit?

The judge said yes!

The evidence shows the Guru Nanak Sikh Society has attempted to be a good neighbor by complying with the requests of nearby residents by building “out in the country” and complying with the 20 conditions imposed by the planning commission, the judge began.

However, the county still denied the building permit, he explained. The evidence clearly shows the county board of supervisors violated RLUIPA and burdened the organization’s religious exercise, the judge continued.

The purpose of RLUIPA is to allow religious organizations to obtain building permits when they comply with reasonable conditions, he emphasized.

The argument that this would be a “leapfrog development” away from the town is insufficient reason to deny the permit, the judge ruled. Therefore, an injunction shall be issued requiring the county to approve the building permit, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 456 Fed.3d 978.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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